The Joy of Delicadeza

Her name is Joy and I’ve never met anyone whose name fits her personality so perfectly.

Joy Lumawig-Buensalido is one of the most successful public relations practitioner in the Philippines today. Starting out as a one-person PR consultant more than three decades ago, she has since parlayed her skills and experience (plus her intuitive knack for knowing how to help her clients project a positive image) into her own company, Buensalido & Associates Public Relations, with a full staff that includes her only daughter.

Joy is not the type to rest on her already impressive laurels, however. At the turn of the century, she came out with a coffee table book, 100 Women of the Philippines: Celebrating Filipina Womanhood in the New Millennium, which she co-authored with Abe Florendo and published herself in 1999. The book’s physical heft (a square foot and about four pounds heavy) – not the kind to drop on your foot – is matched by the gravitas of its content. Among the women she featured were the country’s top political figures, artists, performers, educators, entrepreneurs, professionals, activists and beauty queens – people you would want to emulate, if not idolize.

By Joy’s admission, the book was a gigantic project, incredibly draining but ultimately fulfilling. A once-in-a-lifetime undertaking that is already a valuable legacy even without a sequel. But again, Joy is not one to sit still and bask in her legacies.

Last year, meaning a few months ago, she came out with her second book, an anti-thesis – size-wise – to her first. This time it’s Pinoy Manners: A Modern Guide to Delicadeza for All Generations. The book is 7 x 5 inches small and a mere 133 pages, perfect for carrying in your purse for when you need to wiggle out of an awkward social encounter, or for slipping surreptitiously into another’s bag when that person needs an etiquette reminder.

In this age of foul-mouthed presidents and uncouth social media trolls, delicadeza – loosely translated by Joy as “’sensitivity’ to – or a sense of respect for – others’ feelings” – seems to have taken a permanent holiday. How can one not think so when total strangers insult you online without having met you or party guests start wrapping take-home portions of your party fare, even before the party begins? No one is immune from committing social faux pas, as all of us who have had moments when we said something stupid or inappropriate and we wanted to disappear under the table, can attest.

Well, as the naturally optimistic Joy asserts, delicadeza in the Pinoy context is “not dead” and she proceeds to illustrate how we can make sure it will not even reach the hanging-on-to-dear-life stage.

Among the gems of wisdom she proffers:

  • Don’t “borrow” your neighbor’s husband to fix anything in your house. “A friend’s partner is not a piece of appliance you can borrow or a ‘service provider’ you can exploit to suit your purpose.”

  • Refrain from commenting on bodily changes, such as “Ang taba mo ngayon” (you look fat) or “anong nangyari sa ‘yo? Dati sexy ka” (What happened to you? You used to be sexy) – a greeting as common as hello among Filipinos.

  • Be discreet. “If you truly care for your friends, you should keep their bad habits, their transgressions, or their failures to yourself.” The same rule applies to children and spouses, no matter how much they deserve bad-mouthing. (This last phrase from me, not from Joy.)

  • Don’t ask people what or who they’re wearing… or how much they got it for.

  • Avoid being late; in fact, be “fashionably” early – a reminder many Filipinos can use. Like Joy, I consider my time precious, not to be wasted waiting for an inconsiderate someone who is tardy. To be early for an appointment, especially an important one, means having time to relax, to prepare materials and be ready to tackle the agenda at hand.

  • Don’t feign helplessness, like asking for a wheelchair at the airport when you’re perfectly capable of walking, or acting like you need help when traveling so you can meet “available men.”

  • Don’t mix your ex – or ex’es – with your current partner.

  • Forget about your mobile phone – during official meetings, during meals with family and friends, during appointments, at church, at the movies or plays, and in cramped areas such as airplanes and elevators.

Joy also tackles issues like gift-giving, treatment of senior citizens, acting properly in the company or vicinity of famous people (particularly when it is okay to ask for a selfie), and gestures of sympathy and condolences.

I would have wanted a chapter on how to keep one’s cool when confronted with rudeness or despicable attitude/behavior, but perhaps that’s Joy’s next book.

Pinoy Manners ends with “Ten Things That Will Always Be Right” which, I think, should have the subhead “and should not be forgotten,” but it’s so like Joy to exit on a positive note, without using the word “not,” because she, well, has delicadeza.

For more info about Pinoy Manners:

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino